Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Islands of New England Halloween Party (10.30.13)

Here was my day yesterday in a single sentence: I woke up at 6AM, I worked like a madman until 3PM, warmed up for and then performed my show at the Islands of New England Halloween party in Second Life, changed out of my sweaty gig shirt, went straight to my son's school to watch him play trumpet with his jazz band, then had dinner from the Grilled Cheese Truck, and finally went home. Then I basically collapsed and slept until starting life over at 6AM today.

But we're not here to listen to me whine. Let's talk about the Halloween event at the IONE, because it was a fun one.

My friend Christine Haiku is the events manager at the IONE, and she does a fantastic job. All of her regular events there are well run, and bring in a fun group of people for whom it is a pleasure to perform. I should have realized that she was going to set up something spectacular for her Halloween event. The place looked simply amazing; I've been to (and performed at) many Halloween-based events over my years in SL, and this one took the cake.

Am I bugging you? Here's my customized costume (since I couldn't play guitar as a full bug). Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat, who wore her "Cream of Kat" soup can.

Nice crowd of scary monsters and super creeps. Photo by Triana.

Being that it was a Halloween celebration, I pulled out some of my spookier material. I had to laugh when I chose to debut "Every Breath You Take" by the Police. Most people tend to think of it as a pretty love song, rather than a horrifying tale of obsession, voyeurism, stalking, and unrequited love.

IONE Halloween set list...
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
Spooky (Atlanta Rhythm Section)
The Other Way (Zak Claxton)
Opposite of Afternoon (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
*Every Breath You Take (The Police)
Chrysanthemum (Zak Claxton)
Swing Lo Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Huge servings of awesomesauce to everyone who came out to the party especially the following who supported my show!
Triana Caldera, Theedge Corleone, TheaDee, Llena Lilliehook, jpb2ire, Sesh Kamachi, Kat Claxton, Debbie Rau, Sassy Nitely, my lovely manager Maali Beck, and IONE's fantastic manager Christine Haiku!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Serene Acoustic Lounge Spooktacular for Feed-a-Smile (10.29.13)

Last night's show combined two things that are both near and dear to me. First off, it was a fundraiser for the Feed-a-Smile charity in Second Life, which I've written about often before. Second, it was held at my great friend Barbie Horsley's (aka Sassy Nitely) venue, Serene Acoustic Lounge, which has become one of my favorite places to perform in SL on the semi-rare occasions when she hosts shows there.

As you probably know, Feed-a-Smile is run by Brique Zeiner, and is the Second Life-based fundraising arm of Live and Learn in Kenya, a charity that helps educate and feed African kids. I can't say enough about how well her organization is run, and how much effort she puts in on a direct basis. Unlike the other charities for whom I perform, you actually see the immediate results of the cause, with photos sent of the kids enjoying a hot meal courtesy of the artists and audiences who donate time and money. It's all wonderful and fulfilling as a musician to make a difference in children's lives. The Feed-a-Smile system runs so well in SL because it's so easy to understand; L$100 (about $0.40 USD) buys one kid a hot meal. The math is easy to do. Donate L$1000 (about four bucks), and you've bought ten meals, and so on.

Having fun and raising funds. Everybody wins.

Count Zakula, rocking Serene. Photo by Maali.

The scary hostess with the mostest, Sassy Nitely is ready for Halloween. Photo by Maali.

Last night's show was great... we had a good crowd, and more importantly, the collective performers and their fans raised enough for over 300 meals. I always smile when I think about those kids sitting at their long tables, enjoying a good meal courtesy of the crazy bunch of virtual musicians and the people who support them. I've been on a kick lately of new music discovery, and I ended up doing three songs for the first time during my short set. One was in tribute to the musical icon Lou Reed, who'd passed away two days earlier, and it was important to me to honor one of the great founders of the music I love.

Serene Feed-a-Smile set list...
*On a Plain (Nirvana)
I Am a Child (Neil Young)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
*Swing Lo Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
*Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)

Huge thanks to all who came out to the show and supported Feed-a-Smile! You rule!

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm Going To Help You Understand Lou Reed

Don't get why so many people are upset at the loss of a one-hit wonder? That's okay, you're not alone. So I'm going to tell you why this is a heartbreaking moment for anyone who loves the music of the past 40 years, and it's going to be quick and easy.

Previous to Lou Reed, songwriters strived to create beauty. Even the sad songs were pretty. And songwriters -- the successful ones, anyway -- knew that familiarity was the key to popularity. Songs tended to sound like other songs. Lyrical themes were used over and over again. And there was nothing wrong with that, and it continues today. Speaking of lyrics, a typical "risqué" song in the mid-1960s might talk about a boy who loved a girl and then met another girl. Then Lou came along, and suddenly this guy is tunelessly singing about scoring heroin from a transvestite.

You have to understand how shocking this was. You have to understand that in that time frame, people could be arrested on obscenity charges for singing about these disturbing topics in public, much less releasing them on recordings. While poetry and literature had enjoyed dark themes for a long time, no one really bothered them applying them to pop/rock music before Lou. He never made things pretty, never polished them up. He strove for realism from his gritty New York worldview, and millions of people suddenly had a voice that spoke to them in a way that no pop singer did before. It's almost like a psychological breakthrough, listening to Lou Reed; there's an open acknowledgement that life has its darker side, and perhaps listening to what he had to say was a cathartic moment for many.

I promised you "quick and easy", and others can write the man's obituary better than I can. Here's what I will say: without Lou Reed, there's no punk rock or alternative rock. There's no Sonic Youth. There's no Pixies. There's no Nirvana. No Smiths. No Sex Pistols. No Iggy Pop. No Depeche Mode. No R.E.M. No Beck. No Jane's Addiction. No Talking Heads. And if you don't like those bands, that's okay. There might not be a Public Enemy, an NWA, or a Beastie Boys either. Any musician who purposefully explores dark themes and creates challenging and confrontational songs owes a massive debt to Lou. Thankfully, most of them seem to know it.

An oft-repeated quote was that only 30,000 people bought Velvet Underground records, but every single one of them started a band. Count me as one of them, even though it took me a long time to understand what I was hearing. I get it now.

Rest in peace, Lou.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Molaskey's Pub (10.24.13)

You know, other than the occasional technical issue or other weirdness, all of my live shows are pretty damn good. Some, of course, are better than others, as was the case last night at Molaskey's Pub in Second Life. Once again, it was "Maali's Kids" night at the venue, meaning that the three performers scheduled (Sassy Nitely, myself, and Lyndon Heart in order of appearance) were all managed by Maali Beck Entertainment. I was in a great mood, feeling loose, and gave myself a little extra time to get warmed up, for good reason: I was doing two songs for the first time, and I wanted to do them right.

Another reason for my good mood: Molaskey's was packed. I had people sending me instant messages saying that they wanted to come to the show, but couldn't because the sim was full. You never really know when you're going to have a big crowd like that; it's a crap shoot at best in Second Life. But for whatever reason, last night we had a full house of seemingly happy people. I tend to take the reverse direction of some performers who get more nervous and self-conscious in front of lots of people. I seem to step up my game more in front of larger audiences, and I'm really quite happy with how things ended up at Molaskey's.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Molaskey's set list...
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Doin' Time (Sublime)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
*Carolina In My Mind (James Taylor)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
*Chrysanthemum (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Caxton)
Daniel (Elton John)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Massive thanks to all the people who made this show fun, especially the following who supported my show!
Lyndon Heart, Richy Nervous, Kat Claxton, Christine Haiku, Sesh Kamachi, Sassy Nitely, Cicadetta Stillwater, Rusty Seisenbacher, Diana Renoir, Aurelie Chenaux, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's fantastic GM Mia Kitchensink!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Key West (10.16.13)

There's not much I can say about Second Life live music venue Key West and its owner Liz Harley that I haven't already said many times over. Great venue, a consistently good crowd, and excellent management/staff. I will say that I apparently lost my mind very early yesterday morning, and made a promo video for the show before the sun came up.

I arrived at Key West a bit earlier than usual because my friend Jukebox Diesel was on before me, and I always enjoy his shows. I have a lot of respect for Juke's guitar playing, and the material he chooses is always outstanding. My set was pretty good as well; I chose a somewhat loose theme that included artists/bands who'd been nominated earlier that day for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (including songs by Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, and Cat Stevens). I'd say that most of my covers were fine, but I seemed to have had some kind of brain event while trying to perform my own material. Despite the lyrics being right in front of me, I got tongue-tied several times on my own songs. Shit happens, but I am still occasionally shocked by the randomness of my ability to perform to the best of my ability, for better or worse.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Key West set list...
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Shock the Monkey (Peter Gabriel)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)
The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Brain Damage/Eclipse (Pink Floyd)
About a Girl (Nirvana)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

Big thanks to all who came out to Key West and supported my show!
matilda92, FrankLee Anatra, autumnleather, Stihly Augenblick, Liz Harley, Christine Haiku, Jukebox Diesel, River Jigsaw, Aurelie Chenaux, Colby Abrahams, Sesh Kamachi, Kat Claxton, TheaDee, my great manager Maali Beck, and Key West owner Liz Harley!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Crystal Gardens (10.10.13)

Well, this was a surprise.

A few days ago, my most excellent manager Maali Beck sent me an email, asking if I'd like to do a show on Thursday night. Checking my calendar, I said that it seemed like a fine night to perform in Second Life, but where would I be playing, I asked. Her response? "For Sandi at Crystal Gardens".

I couldn't have said yes any more quickly. A short history: I got into SL in 2006 and started performing pretty quickly as soon as I discovered that such a thing was possible. In 2007, I happened to meet Sandi Benelli, and she booked me for my first regular gig in SL, at her venue which was them called Crystal Sands. Most of the people who were among my earliest fans (and friends) in SL first heard me perform there. So, I've always felt close to Sandi and welcomed any opportunity to perform at her place.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Thursday night's show was really good, for a couple of reasons. The top of that list is that we had a crowd of people who were silly and belligerent. I've said before and I'll say again: it's not the size of the crowd (though we did have a good-sized crowd there), it's the quality of the crowd, and we had a good collection of people enjoying the hell out of themselves at Crystal Gardens. Secondarily, the show itself was good. My material and performance both were adequate for my own standards, so I'm cool with all that.

Crystal Gardens set list...
Is She Really Going Out With Him? (Joe Jackson)
I've Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
A Horse with No Name (America)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Mexico (James Taylor)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Tangerine (Led Zeppelin)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Walk on the Wildside (Lou Reed)
Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

Huge thanks to everyone who saw me return to Crystal Gardens, especially the following who helped support the show!
FrankLee Anatra, Diana Renoir, Petty Pichot, Allegra Genira, Aurelie Chenaux, TheaDee, Sesh Kamachi, Richy Nervous, Cicadetta Stillwater, Guilherme Alenquer, Sassy Nitely, Kat Claxton, my manager Maali Beck, and most of all, Crystal Gardens owner Sandi Benelli!